WASHINGTON — Dressed in their Easter Sunday best, President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, attended an Easter service today at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
The first family made the short walk from the White House across Lafayette Park to St. John’s, known as the “Church of the Presidents.”
“Happy Easter everybody. Happy Easter,” the president said to the press as he walked across the park. The president wore a grey suit while the first lady donned a light colored dress coat with a dark floral pattern over a light colored dress. Malia was in a black and white striped dress with a purple sweater, and Sasha wore a black and pink dress with a sweater.
When the president entered the church, many in the congregation stood and applauded him, with some calling out “Happy Easter” to the family.
The president heard a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Luis Leon, who told the congregation it is acceptable to have doubts about their faith, but it is important not to dwell in the past.
“When we dwell on the past, when we dwell on the ‘if-onlys’ of life, we forget that God addresses us in the now,” Leon said.
The sermon turned slightly political when Leon said there are some members of the religious right who are trying to pull people back rather than letting them move forward.
“The captains of the religious right are always calling us back, back back. For blacks to be back in the back of the bus, for women to be back in the kitchen, for gays to be in the closet and for immigrants to be on their side of the border,” Leon said. “What you and I understand is that when Jesus says you can’t hang onto me, he says you know it’s not about the past, it’s not about the before, it’s not about the way things were but about the way things can be in the now.”
“Will you accept the invitation from our gospel today to see things with Easter vision, recognizing reality in a different and new and wonderful way?” he later added. “Today the choice is yours. Jesus Christ is risen today. That’s the proclamation. May god bless you with Easter vision now and forever. Amen.”
But it wasn’t just a sermon about faith. The president also heard some smack talk about baseball when the reverend shared his views on the New York Yankees.
“I promised myself that I wouldn’t say anything about baseball today, but I can’t. … The last time that I said that I hated the Yankees I got into a lot of trouble, so today I’m not going to say that I hate the Yankees, and it’s hard to hate a team that is falling apart,” Leon said as the congregation laughed. “A-Rod’s [Alex Rodriguez] got a bummed knee. [Derek] Jeter’s on the DL. [Mark] Teixeira’s got a bad, a bad wrist, I think. [Curtis] Granderson can’t run and their closer [pitcher Mariano Rivera] is about 55 years old, so I figure why bash on people while they’re down.”
Obama, the first lady and his daughters each took Holy Communion, and as they sat in their pew, they greeted congregants who were in the aisles for communion.
As the first family walked out of the church, a light sprinkle of rain fell, but the president chose not to take the short motorcade back to the White House, saying instead, “We’re going to walk.”
This marked the president’s third visit to St. John’s for an Easter service. The president and his family celebrated Easter at the Episcopalian church in 2009 and 2012.
In his weekly address, the president called for prayer and reflection over this Easter and Passover weekend.
“In the midst of all of our busy and noisy lives, these holy days afford us the precious opportunity to slow down and spend some quiet moments in prayer and reflection,” Obama said.
“This weekend, I hope we’re all able to take a moment to pause and reflect, to embrace our loved ones, to give thanks for our blessings, to rededicate ourselves to interests larger than our own,” he said. “And to all the Christian families who are celebrating the Resurrection, Michelle and I wish you a blessed and joyful Easter.”
On Monday, the president and first family plan to host hundreds of Americans at the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll, and on Friday, the president is scheduled to participate in the Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House.